Basic Skills of Grant Writers
While some freelance writers develop proposal-writing skills to tap into the nonprofit market for their work, you don't need to be a professional writer to write grants. Nor do you need to have a particular style when you write. But you do need to appreciate brevity and simplicity, and you have to be willing to work at refining your writing style in that direction. Of course, you can't forget the basic areas of aptitude that any writer should have:
In other words, you need all the skills you learned and have used ever since you completed eighth grade. And when in doubt, like any good writer, you'll know when to consult a dictionary, a thesaurus, or a grammar book.
There are a number of other skills a grant writer brings to the profession that you either already have or will develop as you learn more about the field. These skills are almost more important than your ability to write. To be successful, you should be able to think entrepreneurially. That means having the ability to identify an organization's needs and to see how you can use your skills to help them meet their needs. You already demonstrated that you have an entrepreneurial spirit when you purchased and started reading this book. In other words, you saw a need to add grant-writing skills to your resume, and now you are learning how to do it to help fill that void for others as well as for yourself.
You must also learn to develop good client relations and become skilled at negotiating, just as you would in any other business. You'll want to become a good consultant or advisor to your clients. You've noticed through reading this book that successful grants most often come from making good matches between the funder and the services provided by a nonprofit. In other words, just as you had to decide what you could provide your clients — based on their needs — you have to be able to help them to think strategically and thoughtfully about which grants they should pursue for their service programs. And those choices have to be based on what the grant provider clearly wishes to accomplish with the money it distributes to charitable organizations. You want to help your clients find the best allaround matches for everyone.
A grant writer who is involved in the community, has helped develop programs for other organizations, or just keeps up to date on what's going on locally is an invaluable asset for his or her client. You will always be able to tap that background and knowledge when you have to put together collaborative proposals or assign project responsibilities. It also helps to know who the movers and shakers in your community are; they are experienced individuals who know how to get things done.
You'll also discover that if you are creative as well as practical when it comes to developing programs, you have another valuable asset your clients need. Sometimes they are just too close to their project or organization to see what seems instantly obvious to you as an outside consultant, if only by virtue of your experience. For example, if a school is designing a program to reduce delinquency, they might not be thinking about how girls fit into that picture and what's important to them in their various developmental stages. If you can remind them of the latest research that demonstrates that young women, especially those in middle school, need programs in which they do not have to compete with boys for the attention of their adult mentors, your client might decide to include girls-only clubs or activities in the project that they want funded.